Planning on taking a wee one along to a convention? As with any outing involving children, good planning is required to ensure fun is had by all involved. We’ve been taking our daughters, aged six and eight, to Toronto’s FanExpo since our eldest was two months shy of bursting from my womb, and we’ve learned a few things along the way:
We hate waiting in lines, but we can be patient if we have to. Kids are less inclined to do so. There will always be line-ups to deal with, but minimizing the time spent in them is beneficial to all parties. Pre-purchase tickets wherever possible and spend a little extra for any line bypass options, if available. If you do have to wait, have a few distractions handy to keep little minds focused on anything but the “are we there yet?” Modern technology has provided us with handheld devices for just such a purpose! But don’t discount the magic of good old fashioned games like Eye Spy.
Keep them well fed
There’s a reason why the gods invented Goldfish crackers — which now come in all sorts of exciting and tasty varieties. As well as serving the purpose of filling tummies, snacks can help with that whole distraction issue mentioned above. But try not to mess with established feeding times; some young ones don’t do well when you throw off their schedule. Personally speaking, I get pretty ornery when I’m not properly fed, so my husband has learned to keep an extra snack handy, if he knows what’s good for him.
Keep them well napped
I’m pretty cranky when I’m tired, too, but fortunately I don’t become too belligerent and usually don’t throw down in a riotous tantrum when I am. As with feeding time, avoid scheduling events during nap time unless your child is able to sleep the sleep of the dead. My husband and I encourage our kids to nap on the drive down so that they are ready to go by the time we arrive.
Bribery does not make you a bad parent
I strongly believe that any adult who claims that they have never bribed their child is a liar liar pants on fire. We know the mighty power of ice cream and candy and shiny toys, and under certain circumstances, we’re not afraid to wield this handy ability.
Bring a partner
Whether another parent or a friend willing to take turns, having another responsible adult takes the pressure off. Stuck in line? One adult can take the wee one(s) off to the side for snacks and play time.
Strollers are not as convenient as you think
Crowded convention aisles, no matter how wide, really aren’t stroller friendly because many people are intent on their own business or the shinies lining the path. Without a cow catcher attachment, a stroller can quickly go from convenience to hindrance. That said, little ones will get tired of walking, or worse, are at risk of getting lost in the throng or stepped on. Umbrella strollers can be an affordable compromise, and carriers are great for infants.
Little bladders are little
If your little one isn’t in diapers and they say they have to pee, then you better not hesitate. This is where extreme line planning becomes a necessity. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a line when the need strikes, and you don’t want to get to the washroom only to have to line up some more. Before we walk out the door, “Do you need to pee?” is asked of our children. When they tell us “No,” we ask them again until our youngest daughter concedes that maaaaaybe she has to go. Then she proceeds to do her impression of Niagara Falls.
Timeturners aren’t real
Being a kid is hard work, even during fun events. A long day for an adult is an even longer day for a child, so spend your time wisely. Conventions are expensive and, though you want to get the most out of your money, children might not be as understanding and cooperative as you’d like.
Strangers are scary, even famous ones
Just because you know who Nathan Fillion is doesn’t mean your child wants to be forced into the arms of a famous person for the sake of a really cool souvenir. If your child is honest to goodness upset about being passed off to your favourite idol (assuming that person is comfortable with it in the first place), please accept your child’s judgment, rather than instigating their trauma. Note: This guideline should apply for Santa Claus, too.
But the most important piece of advice I will give is this:
Know your child.
Conventions might be a wonderland for many adults, but for tiny minds and bodies, they can be an overwhelming sensory overload. As a parent, you know your child’s likes and dislikes and you know their tolerance level, so before you step into a high stimulus situation like a convention, consider whether or not your child will be comfortable in that kind of environment. I spent one year carrying my then four year old everywhere because she was intimidated by all the people. We ended up at my friend’s art booth where she could enjoy the sights from the safety of the booth’s tables. At the same age, my second daughter was quite comfortable at the convention and wanted to do everything, from posing with cosplayers to kicking my butt in Avengers: Battle for Earth.
If it turns out that your child doesn’t enjoy conventions, thereby making it an unfun time for everyone—or if you just want to cut loose—then consider family or babysitters for the day/weekend. As wonderful as it is to spend every possible moment with our kids and share our interests with them, sometimes, for various reasons, it just isn’t feasible. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you want to enjoy grown up time at your favourite convention.
As with any special event, the focus should be on maximizing fun for adults and children alike. The things we need to do to keep the little ones happy aren’t too different from what we need to do for ourselves as adults. And of course, keeping the little ones happy means that the adults can be happy, too.